Racial Slurs Influence Shaker Heights Move To New Athletic League

A Shaker Heights Athletics t-shirt hangs in the high school hallway. [Annie Wu / ideastream]
The Shaker Heights school board unanimously voted to leave the Greater Cleveland Conference. A district press release says the return to the Lake Erie League will “improve overall athletic competitiveness, reduce travel costs, and better support the socio-emotional development of our students.” [Annie Wu / ideastream]
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Shaker Heights athletic teams are going back to the Lake Erie League starting in the fall of 2020.

When Shaker Heights joined the suburban Greater Cleveland Conference in 2012 they knew it meant playing a lot of bigger schools in four different counties. It also meant playing in a lot of predominantly white schools. 

The surprise came when Shaker players began hearing racial slurs mostly from adults in the stands. Shaker schools spokesman Scott Stephens says the Red Raider players just kept their heads down and kept playing.

“But it’s something that weighs on them. It certainly weighs on our coaches,” said Stephens. “One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve talked to some of the schools where this has occurred. And not that any of the schools would certainly condone this kind of thing, but there are times when we have been, frankly, a little disappointed that more hasn’t been done to address it.”

Stephens says they can’t shelter the students from reality, but they can put them in the best situation for their educational experience.

“They dealt with it like the really, really good student athletes that they are,” said Stephens. “They’ve been remarkably poised as have our coaches. But it becomes an increasing worry and disappointment that they have to deal with those situations.”

Stephens says school officials wanted to play in a league with a more diverse mix of students and one that requires less travel time from Shaker Heights.

Lake Erie League: Bedford, Cleveland Heights, Lorain, Lutheran East, Maple Heights, Shaw, Warrensville Heights.

Greater Cleveland League: Brunswick, Elyria, Euclid, Medina, Mentor, Shaker Heights, Solon, Strongsville.

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